The outpouring of compassion and frustration at the slowness of response to the poor of New Orleans reveals so much that is hopeful and positive, as well as frightening and discouraging
I heard a United Methodist bishop say that the flood washed away the illusion that poverty and racism are not problems today.
These are problems and no matter how we try to cover them, or change the subject, they have become all-too-apparent.
Widows, the sick, orphans, the poor–these were the ones left behind. Poverty, racism and neglect kill.
I’m not critical in the least of the first responders. They did not reject anyone. They are heroic people who did all they could to find and rescue people. This is not criticism of these brave people.
On the other hand, the leaders of the nation, those who are responsible for tax cuts and who have made demeaning statements about government as part of their political platform, turned their backs to the poor long ago, and continue to do so. In addition those conversations that sow division and exclude people, the so-called hot button issues, also occupy us and use time that we could better allocate to fighting poverty, not fighting each other.
These are the discouraging things.
On the other hand, the churches in the affected region stepped out in faith and showed the way. They are among the heroes in this massive human dilemma. They demonstrate that we are at our best when we are united in common mission and ministry. We accomplish our mission and minister effectively when we choose to address real needs and when we choose servanthood over berating each other. This servanthood leads us to our strengths–building inclusive communities, ending poverty, making disciples who are deeply committed to following Jesus Christ as a life commitment, and serving others as an expression of Christian faith.
I think we are hungry for this unity, hope and justice. I think the hurricane has presented us with an opportunity to heal, reconcile and engage in our society. I pray we will seize it.